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Cascade Saddle Route in New Zealand

Most people would like to omit spots like this, unless you are a true adventurer

Best time: December–February

Cascade Saddle Route
Cascade Saddle Route
Cascade Saddle Route
Cascade Saddle Route
Cascade Saddle Route

The Cascade Saddle Route is a popular alpine trail, located between the West Matukituki and the Dart valleys. The route does not cross the Cascade Saddle itself, but a short section goes through the Dart side of it. To complete the 60 km trail, you'll need 3-4 days and 2-3 nights accordingly.

This multi-day hike is especially popular during the summer season and not recommended in winter due to snow and ice. The trail is suitable for experienced hikers only. The Cascade Saddle Route includes alpine landscape, grassy banks of the Dart River and a glacier.

It starts from the Wanaka side and finishes on the Glenorchy side. You should divide this route into several sections and complete it one by one.

There are an Aspiring Hut and a Dart hut along the route, where you can stay for a night. The Alpine section features steep and challenging climb through the native forest and slippery and wet alpine meadows. Going up to the 1850 meter Pylon won't be easy. When heading down to the river, the road is steep and slippery as well. This is not the trail that can be done quickly. It has the highest fatality rate in the country, mainly caused by falls from slippery rocks.

Practical info

When is the best time to hike the Cascade Saddle Route in New Zealand?

The Cascade Saddle Route is ideal for hiking from December to February, which is New Zealand's summer season. The winter season is not recommended due to the presence of snow and ice. During summer, the temperatures are milder, making it perfect for embarking on a challenging hike, which navigates through the alpine landscape, grassy banks of the Dart River, and glacier. However, hikers must be ready for any weather conditions as it can change quickly at higher altitudes. Show more

Where does the Cascade Saddle Route start and finish?

Hiking through the Cascade Saddle Route begins at the Wanaka side and ends on the Glenorchy side. The route, measuring approximately 60 km, can take anywhere between three to four days with two to three nights of stay. Even though hikers do not cross the Cascade Saddle itself, they do pass through a small section of the Dart side. To make the hike manageable for hikers, it is recommended to divide the route into sections and complete one by one. The trek also offers two huts, Aspiring Hut and Dart Hut, for the hikers to rest in overnight. Show more

What kind of landscapes and terrain can hikers expect to encounter on the route?

While hiking through the Cascade Saddle Route, hikers can expect to encounter a comprehensive range of diverse landscapes and terrain. The trail encompasses an alpine landscape, grassy banks of the Dart River, and a glacier. Navigating through the alpine part of the route requires scaling slippery and wet alpine meadows and steep climbs through native forests. The trail also has steep descents to the river and slippery rocks to manoeuvre. The diverse terrain offers challenges and unparalleled scenery for experienced hikers who enjoy trekking. Show more

How long does it take to complete the Cascade Saddle Route in New Zealand?

The Cascade Saddle Route is typically challenging and only recommended for experienced hikers. It usually takes about 3-4 days, and hikers spend 2-3 nights on this hike. The route stretches over 60 km and should be completed in sections, which are achievable for the hikers. The trail presents complex terrain, such as steep climbs through native forests, slippery and wet alpine meadows, and rocky, steep descents to the river. To undertake this hike safely, hikers require proper gear, provisions, and the right supplies for the trek. Show more

What are some safety precautions that hikers should follow when undertaking the Cascade Saddle Route hike?

Undertaking the Cascade Saddle Route hike requires hikers to take several safety measures to prevent accidents. It is recommended for experienced hikers only as it has the country's highest fatality rate, mostly from falls on slippery rocks. Hikers should check weather conditions, which can change quickly, especially at higher altitudes. Hikers should carry adequate gear, supplies and provisions, and pack accordingly. Carrying a GPS system or map is also necessary for navigation. Lastly, hiking in groups is recommended as opposed to hiking alone. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin